Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Episode 50 - Merry Christmas!

It’s The Unreal OC’s 50th episode, and our Christmas episode! So order up this tasty combo, and don’t forget to super-size it because this will be one comic feast you won’t regret.

Click HERE to download or listen online.

Click HERE to subscribe.

Thanks, and Merry Christmas to all!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 14

It's been a few weeks since I posted an Ema update, so here's what's happening. Ema is undergoing her 4th week of radiation therapy on the tumor site (leg). She is doing very well with only minor fatigue and very little blistering.

Her attitude is amazing. I told her yesterday that I'm stunned at how positive she is being through all of this.

We can thank her radiologist and his team for their kindness and expertise during each one of Ema's 5-day-per-week visits to their clinic.

She will be finished with her treatments before Christmas, so we'll have even more reason to celebrate!

Ema and I are planning our Christmas Podcast episode, which will also be our 50th episode - stay tuned for that within the next week or so.

All the best to you, our loyal listeners.



Thursday, November 29, 2007

36 Podcasting Hot Tips - Free Ebook Download!

For a limited time, for you - our respected listeners, I'll be offering (sound like a real infomercial, don't it?) my newest Ebook, 36 Podcasting Hot Tips - FREE!

Just click HERE to download and enjoy!

Give it away as a gift for that special someone for the holidays. Of course, a free ebook may not shoot you to the top of their 'A' list, but it's the thought that counts - right?

Thanks for your support!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Make Some Sunday Morning Donut Money!

Become an affiliate for Podcasting Quick Start, and make 50% commission on each and every sale of my new podcasting ebook!

As warned, my ebook took a price hike from $4.99 to $14.99 but it now includes a companion audio book with sound examples and extra material not found in the ebook.

So, bad news if you want to buy one, but great news if you have a Web site or blog and want to promote this ebook and make some extra holiday scratch!
Here's the 411:

Start selling as an affiliate
: https://paydotcom.com/a.page.php?id=29774&u=EbookHookup

Main sales page: http://www.ebookhookup.com/PQSsales.html

Artwork download link: http://www.ebookhookup.com/PQSimages.html

Thanks folks, and have a great Thanksgiving or whatever you may be celebrating in your part of the world.

- Tom

Monday, November 12, 2007

Episode 49 - We Are Back

See, I knew if I just quit talking about it and actually DO IT, we'd get another show to you fine folks. In this episode Ema and I attempt to fill you in on the past couple of CRAZY months.


Download HERE.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Definition of Spontaneity

We've all seen them. The headphone-wearing people dancing on the corner, with their signs advertising everything from new home sales to pizza by the slice.

I've made the argument that this may be one of the few occupations where job performance may actually improve with the introduction of moderate amounts of THC. Time would fly by, the music would sound fantastic, your inhibitions would dissolve. Or so I imagine. . .

This poor gent however, has neither rhythm nor enthusiasm. But that's not why I took this picture.

No, I took this picture because I could not, for the life of me, conceive of a situation where a person would be driving along and, upon seeing this fellow, be spontaneously persuaded to to get a tattoo.

I can see touring a new home, buying a pizza, maybe even getting an advance on my paycheck, but getting a tattoo, seems to me, is one of the few things in life that requires some planning and forethought.

Am I right here, or have I simply gotten old. Have I forgot what it's like to be young, full of piss and vinegar, cruising the boulevard with nothing better to do that scoff convention? Don't answer that. Or better yet, go ahead and give me your opinion. I'm sure Ema will agree with you as long as your opinion contradicts mine.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 13

Great News! We received the PET/CT results yesterday and they show no signs of abnormal cell activity!

Ema started radiation treatment yesterday. That's going to be five days per week for 6 1/2 weeks. We are prepared for anything, but so glad that all we have to do for now is radiate the leg, start physical therapy and keep our eyes focused on the future.

We just made reservations for next summer's vacation at the Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center. Same as this past year. So, yes, we are literally 'banking' on Ema being well.

Thanks for all your prayers and kind thoughts. The next few entries will contain excerpts from Ema's personal cancer journal.

Today's word of the day: Persevere

- Tom

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 12

We’re waiting for the results of Ema’s PET/CT scan done Monday. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the gravity of these tests. In the time frame of one phone call from the radiologist, our future will be disclosed. If we hear “All clear” – then we take a deep breath and continue as planned with the radiation treatments this week, and schedule another full-body PET/CT scan for a few months from now. If we hear “We see some areas that concern us” – then our hearts sink into our guts and we succumb to the inevitable shock while frantically phoning our team of oncologists.

Yes, these are very stressful times, but somehow we persevere. As much as I hate having our future hinged on the results of a test, I’m glad we opted to get this test done. It wasn’t presented as an option by any of Ema’s oncologists. She heard about it from the lab tech who performed her last CT scan. Turns out the oncologists all agreed the test was a good idea, just not something they usually prescribe. So, thank you lab tech guy. As agonizing as it is to wait for the results, we are grateful to you for recommending it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 11

“Something Good Could Happen!” Ema wrote that in large, block letters on a sheet of note paper then taped it next to the computer monitor in our bedroom. You can see it from any point in the room, and I find myself glancing at it often – especially in the quiet of the evening after the kids have gone to bed. I like the simplicity of it, the humbleness, and the fact that it so adequately summarizes our struggle to stay optimistic in the face of this disease.

Ema is scheduled to go in on Monday to get a PET/CT scan. This will show any hotbeds of cellular activity in her body. Generally speaking, you don't want any 'hotbeds' of cell clusters growing wildly in your body. That's a sure sign of cellular malfunction. In Ema's case, this will indicate cancer cells forming tumors. So, here we go again with more tests, more fingers crossing, more praying, more waiting.

I’m thinking of adding another note to adorn the left side of the monitor. It will read, “We Have Today.” That’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. In a world where anything can happen at any time – fire storms, accidents, cancer – that message seems to be both universal and personal at the same time. There’s that theme again – the more personal you become, the more universal you become as well. See – like it or not, we’re all in this together. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

- Tom

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 10

Thought I'd add a happy photo to the blog for once. I took this one last weekend at the annual St. Hedwig Autumn Festival at the high school up the street.

10/21/07 - Ema and I went out on a dinner date tonight for the first time since before the news of her cancer. The hostess led us through the crowded restaurant at a pace much too fast for Ema who had forgotten her cane at home. I walked behind her, told her to take her time and ignore the hostess's rapid gait. She did, and as she walked, I thought about how proud I was of her for being so brave. In her mind, of course, she's scared to death, but to me she's a fighter, a survivor. The hostess stopped at a corner and stood with our menus at her side in a posture that told us that she was sorry for getting so far ahead. This abrupt world has little patience for the wounded, slow-footed soldier. Cancer certainly waits for no one. But tonight we held our ground. We went on a date, toasted to survival, and for the first time since this all began, stared the enemy back into the shadows. This was our time, and at least for tonight, this disease would just have to wait.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 9

Ema and I are feeling the weight of the reality that is 'living with cancer.' After a terrifying first month we came into a period of relative relief as test results showed no signs of metastasis. Then the meeting with the sarcoma specialist at UCLA confirmed the gravity of our situation. No bad news, per say, just nothing real positive to hang our hopes on. Further meetings of the sarcoma team brought a confirmation on the tumor type - a high grade, undifferentiated, malignant pleomorphic sarcoma. I plugged that tongue twister into Wikipedia, and it came back with an error message stating that three server farms exploded while trying to find information on it. Don't bother looking it up on Google either. It's so rare that you'll be lucky to find a few scattered, obscure clinical trials dating back to sometime before the death of disco.

Ema is still in pain. The surgery site is healing great, but her calf muscle is extremely sore. I can't imagine why. Slicing 1/3rd of my calf muscle away from the connecting tissue then folding it 180 degrees back upon itself and stuffing it into a crater below my knee the size of a baseball sounds like a walk in the park for me. But remember folks, I'm the one who underwent voluntary throat surgery last March just to get good material for the podcast. Ema is behind me on the bed, reading. She just said "hey - add this into the blog - Pain is your body's way of letting you know you're still alive." "Okay honey - I'll add it. Now let's get some rest; you're gonna need it next week when the radiation treatments start."

G'night folks,


P.S. - I know I've been promising this for some time, but we are actually going to try to record a podcast episode this weekend. Stay tuned, and send us an email or leave a comment here. We love hearing from you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 8

Ema update 10/06/07 - Ema and I met with the sarcoma specialist at UCLA yesterday and he confirmed the seriousness of the condition, but also told us that it's encouraging that her lung scans are clear and the biopsy from the tumor margins is also clear. We are at a good place to begin treatment. Looks like radiation therapy will begin in about one week. That involves treatments seven days per week for five weeks. After that we'll have to decide whether we want to pursue chemotherapy.

It was difficult hearing a renowned specialist confirm our fears about recurrence, potential amputation, metastasis, etc. We have to keep focused on the good news though and always keep our eyes on the horizon. Ema showed the doctor a photo of our three children and then looked him in the eyes, "These are the reasons I have to be here." she said. He nodded. I think he understands.

By the way, if you care to see photos of the surgery site on Ema's leg, you can click on the links below.

WARNING! These are not for the squeamish - keep kids under 12, elderly people with pacemakers, and pets with bladder control problems out of the room while viewing!

These were taken one week ago. The staples have since been removed.

Leg photo #1

Leg photo # 2

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 7

Ema update 9/29/07. Okay - Ema has been home for two weeks now, and the pressure bandage was taken off this past Wednesday. Plastic surgeon and ortho oncologist both agree the surgery site is healing nicely. I'd like to post a photo of the surgery site, but I haven't broached that idea with Ema yet. Plus, I believe the Internet has enough shocking photos on it already :) Hey - she's a cancer patient, not a sideshow! Alright, I'll see what I can do.

We have an appointment with the head of the sarcoma unit at UCLA in two weeks. He wants to discuss treatment options. Other than that, it's a slow healing process with day-to-day slow changes. As I right this, in fact, she's creeping up behind me with her walker! "Oh, hi honey! Uhh. . aren't you supposed to be in bed?!?" She just gave me a resolute "Hmmmm. . ." a-la Marge Simpson, and toddled off down the hall. She can get around now! More than just from the bed to the can! Sorry honey - I mean the throne!

She'll hate that I mentioned that, but getting her riled up is part of her therapy - it's gets the blood flowing to the extremities.

That's all to report for now. I've installed intercoms throughout the house and she's using one to hail me at this very moment! I'm so busted.

See ya - keep the emails, cards and letters comin' We appreciate all the kind words !

- Tom

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 6

Update - Saturday September 22, 2007. Ema is still bed-ridden - doctor's orders, and a physical necessity considering the size and weight of the pressure bandage on her leg. The photo above was taken this past Wednesday at her orthopedic oncologists office. We were hoping to get the bandage off then, and disappointed to hear he wanted it left on for another full week. Still, Ema's spirits are good and we have, just within the past couple of days, heard that the tissue removed from her leg is clear of any abnormal (cancer) cells. That is very good news, and will help shape the radiation and chemotherapy treatments which should begin in about two weeks.

This past month has been the worst month of our lives, but oddly enough, there are some good things that have come from it. We have both experienced a lifetime of emotions in one month, and have learned much about ourselves, each other, and our lives in general. One of the things that shouldn't have surprised me but did anyway was just how broad our circle of friends is. When Ema agreed to share her recovery on this blog I was very proud of her. Isn't it interesting that the more personal you are willing to be, and the more honest your are willing to be about sharing the details of your life, the more universal you are? This is one of the many realizations we've had during this past month. I know that personally, I've discovered that I can function in the face of terror - get through the day, continue to take care of the kids. That's a strength that I never knew I had. I also learned just how much I truly love Ema. There's nothing quite like facing death that makes one take critical inventory of what's important in their lives.

We'll be back for another podcast as soon as Ema can climb the stairs to the loft. Or, I may try to record one from downstairs - we'll see. Stay tuned for more updates - and THANKS for taking the time to get to know us - through thick and thin.

- Tom

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 5

Hi folks - Here's an Ema update for Wednesday September 19, 2007.

Ema came home from the hospital this past Friday evening. The pressure bandage on her leg is 24" in diameter, quite heavy, and keeps the leg very stiff. Hopefully, with our visit to her orthopedic oncologist today, we'll get that bandage replaced with something more manageable. She'll need something that allows the knee to bend so that she can start physical therapy later this week.

We are waiting on the pathology report of the extracted tissue surrounding the tumor site. This will indicate the amount of cancer infiltration into the margins and allow the radiologist to target specific areas for radiation treatment. It will also give us an idea of how far the cancer might have spread into the surrounding tissue. Hopefully, not much.

This report is important important to the radiologist and oncologist because it will help them map out exactly where to concentrate the radiation. As you know, the radiation will destroy the healthy as well as any cancerous cells. The idea is to give enough radiation to kill any rogue cancer cells, but not so much as to cripple her by destroying too much of the healthy tissue that's left or damaging the bone. At this point it looks like chemotherapy will follow radiation treatment.

Ema's spirits are good, and we are both ready to continue this battle with the help of family, friends, and our team of doctors. The kids are glad that mom is home, and don't seem too disturbed by the sight of the gigantic band-aid around mom's leg, only the fact that we didn't opt for the Spongebob Squarepants variety.

I'll post another update as we get the pathology report.

Thanks again for all of your well-wishes and help.

*** *** ***

Day 17 Monday 9/10/07: 9:30 AM – Can you say pins and needles? Surgery is today – 3:30. Resection, reconstruction and skin graph. Three things that just shouldn’t have to be done to a body. Thank God we have the technology to do it though! We are also waiting for the ‘all clear’ from Dr. U on the two latest CT scans – pelvis and thorax/abdomen. So, yes, I’m requiring CPR every time my phone rings this morning.

Day 18 Tuesday 9/11/07: 8:00 AM – Ema’s surgery went as planned and she is resting comfortably in the hospital. We are on step four of making Ema cancer-free: Find, Remove, Heal, Annihilate, Recover. Seems like a solid plan.

On the home front, I’m adjusting well to the role-reversal. Was able to get the kids up and out of bed, pre-dawn. “Is it night or day, daddy?” “It’s both, now get your shoes on.” I have a renewed appreciation for what Ema does every single day. Oh shoot! I just realized I forgot to have them brush their teeth, and today is picture day for Juliana and Nick. . .oh well. At least I didn’t leave the iron on or the shower running as I left the house. I think. I’ll call Dr. U’s office this morning to hear results from the other two CT scans.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 4

Day 12 Wednesday 9/5/07: 8:00AM - Teeth-grating Anxiety. I just read more about sarcomas. Seems they are particularly wily critters. Hard to detect, invasive, travel anywhere the blood goes, usually hit the lungs first when they spread, but really could go anywhere. Ema was able to make an appointment for tomorrow afternoon to get three more CT scans with contrast done so we can see how clear her pelvis, thorax, and lungs are. See how positive I’m being? I think the fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear there is. Hopefully I won’t be proven wrong as we continue on our journey of healing.

Day 13 Thursday 9/6/07: 8:00AM – "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - Philo

We had an encouraging conversation with Dr. B yesterday. He’s an upbeat guy with an infectious positive attitude. He didn’t think getting the two additional CT scans was necessary, stating that her lungs were clear and that’s the most likely place that tumors would form from an extremity sarcoma. In an effort to keep our conversation positive and congenial, I didn’t remind him that he was also the Dr. who, three months ago, said the lump on Ema’s knee was nothing to worry about. In all fairness, that wasn’t his fault. No one in their right mind would bet on a 300,000 to 1 race horse either.

Day 14 Friday 9/7/07: 6:45 AM – Ema had pelvic and abdominal CT scans yesterday. She’ll call Dr. U today to see if they have any lab results. With a clear report we’re on schedule to operate on Monday. This weekend should be much better than last. We have more information, including Dr. B’s confirmation that Ema’s lungs are clear, and are closer to ‘scooping out’ any nasty cells remaining in her leg. Yay!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 3

Ema Update: Ema came home from the hospital yesterday. I think I'll have to take off at least part of next week to help her. At any rate, Linda and her daughters have been a tremendous help. Ema sleeps while the rest of the house is kept in order and we work as silently as possible around her - letting her heal.
*** *** ***

Day 7 Friday 8/31/07
: 8:00 AM – Ema and I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon this afternoon to go over the leg surgery. In the meantime, we wait – again.

Day 8 Saturday 9/1/07: 10:55 AM – I’m sitting in the waiting room while Ema gets two MRIs of her leg – one with, and one without contrast. What if this tumor was just a rogue tumor – acting alone without any friends, and with no intention of creating any friends? Is it possible that Ema could, at this very moment, be cancer free? This is a good question to ask Dr. U, Ema’s main oncologist. Actually, it sounds like a good question to ask if we want to set ourselves up for disappointment. Doctors are notoriously conservative with their answers to questions like this. Still, some positive news would be so sweet to our ears right now.

Day 11 Tuesday 9/4/07: 7:05 AM – The Weight of Our Fears – People with post-traumatic stress syndrome often face ‘hot memories’ – bad memories and traumatic fears that own them. I’m trying not to let my fears own me. I fight back, force my fears way down deep as far as they will go. Seems they always find a way to surface. I wonder if this is how our lives will be from now on. I’m certain that our lives will never be quite the same again. We will be on alert at all times, ready to do battle with whatever may appear. We will worry intensely after each CT scan which will have to be performed every three months for the next three years. I’ll be extra-sensitive to Ema’s coughing – a sign of lung cancer. But I’m not afraid of all of this, nor do I feel burdened by it. It’s just something we have to do from now on – our lives really have changed, but maybe it’s not for the worse.

The three day weekend was tough. Cancer has taken the ‘joy’ out of life, and replaced it with fatigue. I hate to give it that much power, but until we get on the road to healing, this is what we face. Three days of inactivity – well, two and a half since the MRI on Saturday, is frustrating. Ema is going to call Dr. U. this morning and try to get some questions answered. Big questions for which we trust Dr. U will give us his usual expert answers: Will Ema live through this? (Yeah, that’s a big one.) How does the relative rarity of the tumor affect treatment, recurrence, survival? What other areas of her body should be scanned for tumors besides her lungs? Answers please, the sooner the better.

8:00 AM – I found an interesting survival calculator on the Sloan-Kettering cancer Web site: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/6181.cfm Wonder how accurate it is? I read 90% here, and 60% on another site. No one knows, and for people like us who are desperately seeking answers, the numbers just add to the frustration.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 2

Day 4 Tuesday 8/28/07: 8:30 AM - Ema, her sister, Linda and I met with Dr. B., the orthopedic oncologist, yesterday late afternoon. He spoke with us for nearly a half hour, explained the bizarre nature of the tumor he removed, the plan for treatment and further detection of rogue tumors.

2:40 PM – I take back anything I may have written earlier about how knowledge is power, and helps relieve stress. Ema just called and told me she just talked to Dr. U., her main oncologist who was “very concerned” and wants to treat this aggressively and immediately. He said he’s concerned that it may have already spread because the tumor was in her for nearly a year and had grown to ‘high grade’ status. Hearing this has made me even more anxious about getting this CT scan ASAP. Hopefully we’ll get it scheduled for later this week.

Day 5 Wednesday 8/29/07: 7:00 AM – I feel like my life force is draining from me. I have no spark, little personality. I feel numb but in tremendous pain at the same time.

Yesterday Ema was able to make an appointment to get a CT Scan for tomorrow (Thursday) at 3:30. Today we’re going to work on arranging to get results before the long, Labor Day weekend ahead.

Day 6 Thursday 8/30/07: 8:30 AM – We’re playing the waiting game. Ema had her CT scan yesterday afternoon and we should hear today or tomorrow whether her lungs are clear. I’ve learned that the liver and brain are also ‘popular’ destinations for metastasis. What other fun facts await us?

I’m dwelling on loss this morning – not a good thing. The more I read about sarcomas, the more I understand how tenacious the disease is. Long term survival rates are not promising. Can Ema be here for another three years, another five? Will she be one of the lucky ones to be cancer-free for the long run? There’s a part of me that wishes I had a more profound connection to my higher power. Another part of me that recognizes I’m too upset to make friends with an all-powerful being at the moment. Now may not be the best time to find God. Some may argue it’s the best time. I don’t have the energy to decide so I do a little psychotic shuffle between praying and pleading with God and cursing the universe from the very depths of my soul. If there is a God, I hope He understands.

1:35 PM – I’ve been searching for the right word to describe my mood today, and it just came to me – heartbroken. I’m the closest I’ve been to breaking down and bawling in my hands. Not a great thing to do while at work, and the pressure to keep it inside does nothing but add to my anxiety. Still waiting for CT results.

2:35 PM –Ema just got back to her work after her appointment with her radiologist, and she called me to tell me the preliminary CT results showed no signs of cancer. Thank God! Then the question – what does ‘preliminary’ mean in this case? Okay, shut up – allow this relief to sink in, settle, take a deep breath.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal

Ema update: Ema's surgery was Monday and it went as planned. The orthopedic oncologist and plastic surgeon worked to perform a radical resection of the tumor site. There's more details here, but they aren't for the squeamish, so I'll leave it at that. She is still in the hospital, but should be coming home tomorrow or Friday. Also, the two latest CT scan results came back negative for cancer - all clear - yay! I saw her today (Wednesday). She looks good, her spirits are up, and her leg hurts like an SOB.
*** *** ***

Like Ema said in episode 48, “. . .these are the only two things you do alone in life – be born and die. And when death looks at you it’s terrifying. But if you’re not alone, it makes a big difference.” This is why I’m writing this ‘cancer recovery journal.’ I was going to call it a ‘cancer journal,’ but it’s really about the process of recovery, not the disease itself. Ema is so right - a huge part of recovery comes from knowing that you are not alone. So many friends, some of whom we haven’t talked to in years, have come to our side and offered prayers, babysitting, running errands, and so much more. Sharing Ema’s recovery and our journey helps us stay connected to everyone who has offered help and sent well-wishes for a speedy recovery. There’s no reason to go through this alone as long as we have friends and family who are willing to be part of this battle.

Like many life-threatening diseases, cancer sweeps through a family like a cyclone – upending a normal life and challenging the very substance of our resolve. While the disease is destructive by itself, the treatments can leave the patient sick, weak, and vulnerable to other ailments. Where we stand today, we’ve eradicated the tumor, removed the tissue surrounding the tumor site, and are now healing those wounds before radiation and chemotherapy can begin. Both of these treatments are radical, potentially destructive measures that seem almost archaic in practice, but which are the most modern, effective ways to annihilate such a tenacious disease.

I wrote the first several entries of the journal without any expectations of publishing it in a blog. It’s a personal account of how I made it through each day knowing my wife, the person I had expected to spend the rest of my life with, may be dying. The journal starts on the third day after the news of Ema’s cancer.

Day 3: It’s 7:00 AM right now, and we somehow made it through the weekend. Ema is going to call her doctor in one hour to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, I wait, try to keep busy by doing even the most mundane things, and concentrate on my breathing which seems to soothe me a little.

Breathe in, breathe out. That’s about all I can do right now. For the past 36 hours I have been in a near dissociative state of panic. I feel at once restless, helpless, anxious, and angry. I want to lash out, blame someone, but I haven’t had the energy to do more than place one foot in front of the other, raise my hands to the keyboard and, against better judgment, sit behind the wheel of my car and steer absent mindlessly toward places I really don’t want to go.

Idle time is the worst. The moments between walking, driving, writing, working. The smallest interim of inactivity causes my mind to start spinning, thinking and rethinking worst-case scenarios. With so little information so far to go by, I’m forced to concoct possible outcomes, trying to sort out my feelings in each circumstance. What if the doctor tells us she has six months to live? What if this rare form of cancer has proven to have a 100% mortality rate? It’s exhausting and frustrating to think of these things. Although writing this down forces me to think about it all, I know that it will somehow help me in the long run.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Episode 48 - Some News

Click HERE to listen or download.

Ema and I share our family vacation story then tell y’all about some rather unpleasant news. Don’t start celebrating yet – we’re not canceling the show! This news is a little more personal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Episode 47 - Anniversary Show

Click HERE to listen or download.

Get ready to rumble! Ema and Tom get up in each other’s grill in this episode so put the kids in the other room and prepare for a knock-down, drag out laugh fest! Methinks you’re gonna love this first anniversary episode!

Oh yeah, and if you want to see a video of the boombox that I mentioned, here's the link: http://theaterofyourmind.blogspot.com/2007/08/buy-my-boombox.html

The winning bid on it was $728.00.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Episode 46 - Treatment Effects

Click HERE to listen or download.

Perhaps Tom should have taken the Alli label more seriously, rolling obituaries, cupcakes, more things to keep Tom Busy, Ema's knee lump update, potty talk, and Ema writes a great story that Tom critiques instead of praises.

Podcasts mentioned in this episode - Tucker Tales

Blogs mentioned in this episode - Celluloid Heros

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

52stories.net - Online Writing Community

Just a quick announcement that I've just launched an online writing community called 52stories.

Do you want to write more, but don't know what to write about? Do you find yourself procrastinating over writing? 52stories is here to help you remove the barriers between you and your stories. We provide one photo per week and you write a story based on that photo. We publish your story and other writers provide feedback. Imagine writing 52 stories in one year... now, make it happen.

Stop on by - 52stories.net and let me know what you think.



Sunday, June 24, 2007

Episode 45 - That's Good Water!

Click HERE to listen or download.

In this madcap episode, Ema and I recap our trip to Santa Barbara, Tom is in love with Jane – the voice on his GPS, Nick gives us his top five favorite things about summer, listener feedback, Alli is A Lie, and how NOT to hang cabinets in your garage. All this and MUCH more packed into fifty-five minutes of jaw-clenching delight.Special Thanks to Ed Vawter for the nice intro to our show. Please check out his podcast: Searching The Internet. You can find it here: http://www.qdinformation.com/searching/

Also, thanks to Barely from Barely Podcasting for the audio comment. Barely recently discovered The Unreal OC from Couplecasts.com.
Please check out Barely Podcasting by clicking here: http://www.barelypodcasting.com

If you'd like to leave us an audio comment, please do - call: 206.336.2857 or shoot us an email - theunrealoc AT gmail.com Thanks!2857(206) 338-2857

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pardon our Mess During Digestion. . .

Yes, Ema and I have started taking Alli. I'm taking it to help me tone up for the summer Speedo season, and Ema. . .well, she's just taking it to support me. We'll be back with a podcast very soon, and will talk about our success with Alli then. Stay tuned!


P.S. Just kidding about that whole Speedo thing. I'm not one of those men who look good in a banana hammock. Seriously, do any men?

Now, here's that poopy pants video you've been looking for.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Unreal OC - Episode 44 - Frozaffles

Click HERE to listen or download.

To save breakfast prep time, I've been trying to convince my kids that eating frozen waffles is better than if I were to toast them; Sadie is earning points; book recommendations, old movie reviews, fun facts, Ema got poked way too many times the other day; a birthday reminder gone wrong, and music podcasts that ROCK. . .or put you in a romantic mood.

Music podcasts mentioned in this episode, and a couple I forgot to mention, but are also excellent:
Books Mentioned:
Movies Mentioned:
Websites or other podcasts mentioned:
We'll be back within one month for another podast. Hopefully sooner. Thanks for staying subscribed!

- Tom

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hiya Folks

Spent most of the day recovering from a nasty case of frostbite. Seems Ema had accidentally left the freezer door open last night and the whole house frosted up. The kids were fine because they had their feety jammies on, but mine were at the cleaners, and now the doctor says I may have to lose three toes on my left foot! It's a shame too because I really used those toes a lot.

Sadie, our Dachshund, was frozen like a pupcicle, poor little critter. We were able to thaw her out in the Jacuzzi though, so no animals were harmed. . .as they say.

Anyway, needless to say there won't be a podcast this week. Look for one next week though, because we've got some stories to share that will make you glad you never set foot in the O.C.

Thanks for checkin' in,


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Episode 43 - Puddles Everywhere

Click HERE to Listen
The Dachshund is trying Tom’s patience, Ema admits to escalator hesitation, we announce the winner of our Things I Hate/Things I Love Contest, Ema would like to have a soundtrack to her life, we re-discover 'The Wedding Singer,' Our neighbor talks Tom down from the ledge, and we discuss the relative merits of being ‘good’ parents.

Contest winner Dan's Things I Hate/Things I Love:

Love - Sleeping
Hate - Going to bed

Love - Video Games
Hate - Work

Love - Flamboyant Gay Comedians
Hate - Homophobes

Love - AudioBooks
Hate - Illiterate people

Love - Podcasting
Hate - Broken web pages

Music on our show curtesy of Joe Feraci:Click HERE for info on Joe
Links Mentioned:
Love Long and Prosper Podcast
Theater of Your Mind (Tom's stories)

And even though we didn't mention them in this episode, a link to our buddies Jen and Jason's Tucker's Podcast 'Tucker Tales.'

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Please Stand By. . .

Ema and I are experiencing technical difficulties, but will return with an episode very soon. Thanks for checking in!

- Tom

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lost Vegas Weekend

Waiting with ema at Las Vegas airport. Carry-ons are really heavy, but my wallet is much lighter so it balances out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Blog Exclusively for Tom's Stories

So I came home this evening and excitedly told Ema the idea I've got for a new story for the blog. She was sweet enough to listen to me blurt out my half-baked idea, then said "Are you going to post that on OUR podcast blog?" I said "No, yes, I mean, I think so." Yup, I'm a real stud in the face of conflict. "Why?" I said, "Shouldn't I?" She smiled, tried to take my feelings into account, and said "I think you should start a new blog just for your stories so we can leave the podcast blog for items relating to the show and the show notes." I knew she was right. I let her believe it was the best idea I've heard all day. She still believes it, although she's out with some friends at the moment, and I can smell Sam's diaper from three rooms away, so I better close this up. Enjoy this blog for all podcast-related stuff, BUT, please do subscribe to the my new story blog, Theater of Your Mind, as well. Check it out - theaterofyourmind.com

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Cruise - Part Four

”A balconette?” I said as I watched Rachel’s pleasant smile morph into an apoplectic glower. “But the brochure we received from the travel agent explicitly called out a balcony. And, P.S. - What the hell is a balconette?!?” Rachel lowered her eyes toward the counter as if trying to remember her 40 minute training session on how to nullify a disgruntled cruiser. Then, quite suddenly, her smile returned. “Yes Mr. Jordan, the brochures are incorrect; printed two years ago before we changed ships for this route. I’m terribly sorry that the travel agent mislead you. Our website has all of the latest information on our ships and rooms. A balconette is simply the term we use to describe our upgraded bay window. Most rooms on your floor offer only a porthole. Now, if you’d like, I’d be happy to show you how to find our website online.” I paused, gathered my thoughts, tried suppressing my rage by finding a happy place – nothing. Rachel was no longer pretty, no longer alluring. Even her dimples had no affect on me anymore. She meant less than nothing to me, and the poor girl didn’t even know it yet.

“Look, Rachel, first of all, Today is Friday, and I wasn’t born on a Thursday – you follow? Calling a window a balconette is like calling an AMC Pacer a Limosenette simply because it has big windows. Very misleading.Secondly, my wife and I booked this cruise with the expectations of having a balcony, and there’s no way that I am going downstairs to tell her that the porta-potty of a cabin you issued us is the one we are going to spend five glorious nights in. And do you know why we are not going to spend five glorious nights in that tin can?” I took a breath and watched Rachel fumble for the alarm button under the counter. “Because my darling wife of eight years, with whom I’m celebrating our anniversary at the Captain’s table tomorrow evening, just got promoted to Senior Editor of an internet travel review site called TripAdvisor.com. You may want to become familiar with this site as roughly 90 percent of the passengers on board who used the internet to research their cruise used TripAdvisor. Now, if you’d like, I’d be happy to show you how to find it online.”

I’m not sure when they arrived; sometime during my tirade, I’m sure, but there were two gentlemen in suits standing behind me, listening to my every word. Rachel, who, at this point, stood at least two feet back from the counter, looked at me and nodded toward them. “These gentlemen might be better suited to handle your difficulty, Mr. Jordan.” I turned, but before I could speak, the taller of the two suits presented his hand and introduced himself. “Hello Mr. Jordan I’m Victor Caldera, the Senior Director of Customer Service on this ship, and this is Mr. Phelps, the Sales and Marketing Director. Rachel, bless her heart, should have directed you to me in the first place, as she is really in charge of looking after people’s valuables on the ship. But, as you can see, the line for the Cruise Service desk is much longer, and by speaking with Rachel first, you avoided such a wait.” Victor chuckled, and waved his hand across the foyer to a long line switch-backing between velvet ropes in front of another counter. “Oh. . .” I turned back toward Rachel. “Sorry about that.” She smiled again, more tentatively this time – no dimples. “Now let’s go check out your room, ehe?” I lead the two suits down into the bowels of the ship, showed them our room, the brochure, and introduced them to Ema to whom they congratulated, and apologized profusely.

Ema was bewildered and impressed by how much power her dear husband yielded. She had no idea why she was being congratulated, but wend along with the act like a trooper. It wasn’t until we were unpacking our suitcases in our spacious, luxurious suite on the Promenade deck, that I finally told her the whole story. She was still impressed, even considering the lie; and somehow, some way, this extravagant trip suddenly seemed worth every cent.

The End

No Show This Week

Ema is feeling a bit under the weather this week, so we didn't record an episode. Look for episode 43 (hopefully) next week!

In the meantime, enjoy the blog, and don't forget to check out the archived storytelling episodes.



Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Cruise - Part Three

I walked back up the long, slightly sloping hallway to the aft main stairwell, and climbed four floors to the main deck. Hundreds of guests milled about, many with astonished looks on their faces as they glanced skyward at the magnificent glass elevator stuffed to capacity, as it rose toward the promenade deck. I’d seen the elevator. I’d also seen the hallway with the buzzing lights and a curious little room, not much bigger than my cubicle at work, which had somehow been mistakenly issued to us. I set my eyes on the purser’s desk at the far end of the lobby.

At the pursers’ desk I was greeted by a tall, pretty brunette, mid-twenties, Rachel according to her name tag. “Hello Sir, what can I help you with?” Too damn cheery; normally I’d put a stop to that right away, but there was something about her look, the way she presented herself, that smile, those dimples, the fresh, unsoiled innocence of youth. . . “C’mon, Jordan, snap out of it!” I told myself. “Your WIFE is downstairs in steerage, standing in a room the size of an airliner lavatory! Concentrate on your anger, man – you do it all the time at home!” I took a deep breath, remembered the last time I caught our dog peeing on the office carpet, and got down to business.

“Hi.” I said, firm, composed, confident. Then again, I reminded myself it’s not that hard to say ‘hi.’ “I believe we were given the wrong room.” I handed her our boarding pass and room key. “Well let’s take a look.” She said, turning to her computer. “Hmmm, according to our records and your itinerary, everything seems to be in order. Was there something wrong with the room?” I was halfway expecting this answer. “Let’s start with what’s right with the room – it’s a shorter list.” Rachel gave a half smile. “The room appears to be dry – free from sea water leakage of any kind; there’s a bed of sorts, something resembling a television, but I needed my reading glasses to correctly identify it, a window. . .” I paused, remembering the one bit of evidence that even Rachel nor her computer could dispute – the balcony! “Oh yes, the window. According to the brochure, our deluxe stateroom was supposed to have a balcony – not a window.” Rachel bit her lower lip and tilted her head slightly as she turned back toward her computer monitor. “Hmmm. . .” She said, tapping away on the keys. “Oh, your room doesn’t have a balcony. It has a balconette.” She smiled, turned back toward me and combed some hair behind her right ear with her fingers.

Now I may not know much about politics, mathematics, history, automotive repair, or women, but the one thing in which I do have confidence is my command for the English language. I’m a ‘word nerd,” love words, and know quite a few of them. Never, in my nearly four decades on this planet, however, had I heard the word ‘balconette.’ I folded my arms on the faux marble countertop, leaned in toward Rachel, and took a deep, cleansing breath.

To be continued. . .

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Cruise - Part Two

“The pleasure of expecting enjoyment is often greater than that of obtaining it, and the completion of almost every wish is found a disappointment” --Samuel Johnson

Magical photographic techniques have been used for decades to enhance the allure of consumer products for marketing purposes. We’ve come to expect certain liberties that advertisers take to sell us goods. That perfectly grilled steak on the Webber grill billboard? We accept that the grill marks were made with a curling iron, and the rich caramel coloration is a result of dipping the meat in a wood stain and honey mixture. Nowhere, though, is there a wider chasm between fantasy and reality than with the cruise ship brochure photos. Fish-eye lenses do more than broaden and deepen our visual perspective of an otherwise tiny cabin, they toy with our mental perspective as well - manipulating our dreams; and providing a false promise which we are compelled to believe.

When Ema and I saw the photos of our deluxe stateroom with balcony in the brochure, we no more believed them than we believe the Southwestern Grilled BBQ Bacon Burger we order from Carl’s Jr. will look anything like the photo on the menu board. But, when our food is finally delivered, at least it resembles our notion of what a hamburger should look like, and not, say, a chicken wing. That’s what Ema and I were staring at – a $3,000 chicken wing.

At the far end of the room, where the balcony should have been, there was a large, oval, doorless window. “This has got to be the wrong room.” Ema said, trying to regulate her breathing as to not hyperventilate. “Yeah.” I said, and walked into the room. I approached the window and felt along the outer edge for a handle of some sort, a seam, anything that would indicate that the window could be opened. Nothing. I turned back to Ema who was struggling with the bathroom door handle. “Wait” I said, “Don’t move a muscle. I’m going to speak to someone in charge.” Ema likes it when I get upset enough to be proactive. She was able to let a thin smile escape as I swept by her and kissed her cheek on my way out of our tiny room.

To be continued. . .

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Cruise - Part One

Many, many years ago, before some of you were born, say around 1999 or so, Ema and I decided to take a cruise. Once the idea sunk in, we were so excited about this adventure that we swore not to let the fact that we couldn’t afford the trip stand in our way. Nor did we allow the fact that I have an inner ear disorder which obligates me to spontaneously empty the contents of my stomach whenever the ground on which I’m standing moves. Ema assured me that today’s modern ocean liners are so stable and smooth, that you don’t even know you’re on the water. I reminded her of the time I lost my lunch while standing in line for a movie when a 4.2 earthquake hit. Touché.

While booking the trip, we decided that as long as we were spending money we didn’t have, we mize well splurge and get an outside stateroom with a balcony. This way, our last memories of life prior to moving to skid row would at least include a decent ocean view. The kind person on the other end of the phone assured me that we had booked the same room that we saw in the brochure. “Yes sir,” she said, “We have you and your wife booked to share the deluxe ocean view stateroom on the Cordova deck.” “With a balcony?!?” I blurted. “Yes, sir, with a balcony. That will be nine hundred thousand dollars.” Actually I forget the actual amount. All I know is that we made more than a couple of trips to the day-old butcher in the year following our trip.

The day of the cruise had arrived, and we couldn’t wait to get on the ship and check out our deluxe stateroom with balcony! We made our way down into the ship to the Cordoba deck. This should have been our fist clue, as the further down in the hull of a ship your room is, the noisier and less desirable it is as well. Think “steerage” from the movie Titanic. We reached our room, mid-way down a very long hallway lined with buzzing fluorescent lights. I slid the key card, pushed open the door, and Ema and I stood in silence for several long seconds staring into the room which represented our last bastion of fun and frivolity before the vexing and pitiless phantom of financial demise embraced us at the end of the gangway as we stepped ashore.

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Unreal OC - Episode 42 - Win

Our good friend Win visits us from the UK as we stumble down memory lane, talk about why British people use the wrong words for things, and laugh until we make ourselves ill.

Click HERE to download!

Subscribe to this podcast HERE

Subscribe to this blog HERE

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 3

Thursday, 7:17 AM – For the first time in several days I felt fine. I mean, aside from the cold which I was still fighting off, I didn’t have anything “wrong” with me. This was both curious and disturbing. I mean the cold had provided enough aches and pains to keep my gait at the speed of an arthritic sloth, but otherwise I thought I might just have come out on the other side of my woeful week. It had been twenty days since my throat surgery, and all was healing on schedule. My face had cleared from the ink incident, and I hadn’t even thought about the chipped tooth. I felt a glimmer of encouragement, motivation even. After a few minutes of gleeful contemplation I greeted a co-worker, “Hi Sssteve. . .Sssteve, heh. . .ahem.” I said, clearing my throat and smiling. “Hiya Tom. Heckuva whistle you’ve got there.” Steve walked on by, laughing to himself, shaking his head. I spoke to myself, “Sssteve, Ssssteve, sssseason Sssix of Ssssimon and Ssssimon.” With every “S” came a distinct, fulminating whistle. It seems that the chip in my tooth was more than an unpleasant cosmetic deformity. I spent the rest of the day avoiding words containing the letter “S” and training my tongue to form consonants in a manner that avoids embarrassment.

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 2

Wednesday, 9:00 PM – Felt good all day, but while brushing my teeth in preparation for bed, discovered a distinct chip on the interior corner of my Left Maxillary Central. I showed this to Ema who seemed deeply concerned over the fact that I know the standard dental chart name for my left front tooth, yet brushed off the chip like it was nothing. I too, realized the abnormality of a non-dental professional dedicating time to memorizing all of the correct names for his teeth. I went to bed, ran my tongue over the newly-discovered chip, and made the decision to tone-down my anatomical references. Ema, after all, needs confidence in the degree of sanity of her mate.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 1

Have you ever owned a car that, every time you drove it you discovered something else wrong with it? Monday it’s that squeak coming from the rear axel; Tuesday you notice a new, cryptic icon glowing amber on your console; Wednesday morning you find an odd-colored puddle under your car. Would it surprise you, in light of this scourge of problems, to discover your warranty had recently expired? That these problems were simply a manifestation of the car makers’ well-constructed ploy to provide every vehicle with time-sensitive, self-destructing parts?

Well I believe, just as with many of the cars I’ve owned, that my personal warranty has expired. It seems my maker, in all his or her wisdom, had also provided me with self-destructive parts. And, at the risk of making this blog a dumping ground for self-indulgent belly aching, I thought I’d take the next couple of episodes regale you in the events of the past week as they played out – day by excruciating day.

Monday, early AM – Had a dream that I was blind in one eye, and awoke to find my left eye open. Apparently it had been open some time; and as my dreams played in the theater of my mind, my Rapid Eye Movement caused my open eye to dance wildly, making physical contact with the pillow. Lost in sleep’s sweet slumber, I felt no pain nor was I awakened during the night. Waking to an eye that’s already open was whacky, almost amusing, but as the zaniness of the moment wore off, and I was forced to take that first blink, I was introduced to a pain that could only be described as ‘wicked.’ One hour of flushing the eye with saline was enough to re-hydrate the eye. During my lunch break I went to CVS and bought a sleep mask.

Tuesday, mid-day – Glanced in the bathroom mirror after a particularly important meeting to find dozens of black dots of various sizes covering my face and neck. It took a couple of minutes to realize that the pen I had been absent-mindedly flicking during the meeting had lost its end cap, thus transforming it into a very efficient ink gun. I wetted some paper towels, squirted some hand soap on them and started scrubbing. Some of the smaller dots disappeared, but the larger ones simply smeared into my skin. I rinsed, looked into the mirror, and noticed red splotches popping up like a pox from my hairline to my collar. Seems I was having an allergic reaction to the ink or the soap or caustic combination thereof. Another couple of rinses, and I stared stupefied at the deranged harlequin looking back at me. With three hours to go at work, I managed to stick to the shadows, and discovered how to make darkness my friend.

To be continued. . .

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Podcasts to Which I'm Currently Subscribed

This list is not all-inclusive, so if you're one of my podcasting buddies and you don't see your podcast listed here - fear not, but feel free to send me a scathing email all the same.

  • Alt.NPR: Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
  • APM: A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon
  • APM: Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett
  • Croncast
  • Geek Counterpoint
  • Managing the Gray
  • NPR: Fresh Air
  • NPR: Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!
  • podCast411
  • Podcasting Underground
  • Radio Leo
  • This Married Life
  • Rory Blyth: The Smartest Man in the World
  • History Podcast
  • The Love Long and Prosper Podcast
  • This American Life
  • Tucker Tales Podcast
  • WGBH Morning Stories
  • LifeSpring
  • Griddlecakes Radio
  • The Zedcast
  • Science Friday
  • Verge of the Fringe
  • The Hollywood Podcast
  • Cush – Things I Say
  • Fat Guy Radio

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For Burney

Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to be the first person on your block to own a really cool item. Did this propel you to the level of popularity you had hoped? I’ll sure bet it did. I remember when my neighbor, Burney was the first person on our block to get a powered lawn mower. It was 1970, and back then, powered mowers were usually reserved for lawn care professionals, those wealthy enough to have a lawn larger than a welcome mat, or, in Burney’s case, someone with a delicate self image who believed that owning cool things would make him likeable. Anyway, Burney’s new mower fulfilled every desire he had for popularity, and made him an instant celebrity. I’m surprised the local paper didn’t stop by to take a picture of him proudly perched over his ½ horsepower gleaming green beauty. Not only could he now mow his 350 square foot plot of sod in less than 45 seconds, but he could effectively scare every cat within ear shot into the next county. Yep – Burney was sitting on top of the world.

One afternoon while I was hanging out with Burney on his front steps, he brought out his little baggie of tobacco and rolled up his cigarette like he always did. He said he had to smoke outside because his wife didn’t let him smoke in the house. I was five years old – what did I know from tobacco? All I know is that whatever kind of tobacco he was smoking, it sure smelled a lot different than the kind of tobacco in my parent’s cigarettes. He used to smoke his cigarettes differently too – taking long drags on them and holding the smoke in his lungs for a really long time. Sometimes he’d burst out in coughing fits and have to take a slug out of his can of Coors to quiet himself. He'd take a long pull on the can, then fling his head forward with a resounding Ahhhhh. "Don't drink beer, Tommy. But when you're old enough, make sure it's cold. Ice cold." Yeah, Burney was a really funny guy. One day after smoking a cigarette on the porch he decided to mow his lawn. I reminded him that he had just mowed it before lunch, but he didn’t seam to want to listen to me. He just laughed a little, pulled the rip cord on the mower and started her up. He started coughing again as the mower blew exhaust toward him, so he walked away from the mower to get his Coors. As soon as his back was turned, the mower started moving forward. It rolled straight off the lawn, over the sidewalk, off the curb and into the street right in front of a car. The car managed to stop with a skid and Burney looked toward the sound, dropped his Coors, and ran into the street. He was a fast runner for an old guy of 30 or so, but not fast enough to grab the mower before a car coming from the other direction smashed into it and sent it sailing 50 feet through the air and careening off a parked van.

Some of our neighbors heard the raucous, and came out to see what was happening. Both drivers from the cars ran over to Burney who was frantically trying to turn what was left of the mower off. I don’t know why, but it took three people two minutes or so to shut down that engine. I stayed on the curb, watching the whole incident go down. I remember the three men trying to yell above the noise of the mower, all the while black smoke billowed from the exhaust. They finally shut it down and lifted it onto the sidewalk. They talked for a while, exchanged their versions of what had just gone down. During the commotion my mom ran out of the house, thinking the car skid and resulting casualty may have been me. She stood next to me until things calmed down a little then took my hand and brought me back inside our apartment.

The next day I walked over to Burney’s house and found him working in his garage. He had several Coors lined up along his workbench, and was bent over the warped carcass of his mower, sweating and talking to himself. I didn’t say anything. I sat on a stool and watched him for about twenty minutes. He didn’t even know I was there. Finally he glanced toward me and blinked. “Hi Tommy.” He said. “Hi.” I replied. “Is it broken?” I asked. “Naw, just banged up a little.” Burney said, looking back down at the heap of twisted metal. “Heck of a wreck though yesterday, huh? Did you see how this thing flew when that car hit it?” “Yup.” I said. Burney paused, looked past me for a moment as if he was formulating a thought, then gave me a half smile. “You’ll probably tell this story to your kids someday.” He said. At that age I had no real concept of time or any notion that I’d ever be a father. “Uh huh.” I said. “Well, do me a favor if you do tell this to someone okay?” “Uh huh.” I said. “Tell them that I got the mower up and running the next day, and it worked just fine. Will ya do that for me?” “Sure.” I said. “Thanks Tommy. You’re a good boy.” And with that, Burney leaned back over the mower, tightened a couple of bolts and started it up. It looked and ran just like new; and Burney spent the rest of the afternoon mowing every lawn along our street; stopping only occasionally to take a sip of ice cold beer offered by his gracious neighbors.

Monday, March 19, 2007

With All Good Inventions

At 6:16 AM this morning I stood in my kitchen staring blankly at our newly acquired Bread Buddy. Ema bought our Bread Buddy Sunday at Target. She says she bought it for me, but as far as gifts go, I’d say it ranks right up there with vacuum bags. Well, that’s what I thought yesterday when she presented it to me, but my mind has since changed. Now bear with me honey, because I know you’re reading this and probably thinking “Well that’s the last time I even burn one lousy neuron trying to think of something to make Tom happy, that no good #&@!(%! "

You see, it’s not you, it’s me. Yesterday I didn’t see the beauty nor the fun inherent in bread dispensation. Frankly, it’s not just the fact that the Bread Buddy keeps our bread fresher than ever, but it also makes picking slices from the loaf easy and, yes I’ll admit it, almost fun! You see, the reason I wasn’t thrilled with this item when you presented it to me was that all I could think of was “Someone made a million dollars on this over-sized Tupperware container and it sure as heck wasn’t me!” I mean if all it takes to be an inventor these days is to look around your kitchen and find something that could be used differently if it were three times its original size, then Thomas Edison is turning over in his grave right now! I’m not saying there can’t be beauty in simplicity; what I’m saying is that there should be a modicum of creativity involved or else. . .or else I fear the future. That’s right, I said I fear the future!

So yesterday I once again put my own interests in front of yours, and hurt your feelings in the process. When will I learn? I can’t answer that right now, actually, because I’m busy working on my own invention for which I cannot disclose details. Suffice to say, your dear gift was the inspiration for my idea. So thank you for taking time to think about me while you were out shopping, and for having the intuition to realize that the true value of any gift isn’t in the gift itself, but what it can inspire in the person who receives it. Now, do you have any idea how I could go about creating a giant food processor? I have this idea of how to make a great, automatic dog washer. . .

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Word to My Peeps

Is there such a thing as high quality Easter candy? I know that Sees makes some pretty good chocolate bunnies, but I’d be willing to say that 99.998% of all Easter candy produced in this nation falls far below most prison standards for quality confections. Take those horrible, hollow chocolate bunnies for example. You know the ones wrapped in really thin foil that are nearly impossible to peel without leaving serrated bits of foil caught in the bunny’s poorly assembled seam? The kind that melts at room temperature, and only resembles chocolate by its color? Why is generic Easter candy so inferior yet so much more expensive than say, a Hershey bar? And who in God’s name ever came up with the notion that a kid is going to just LOVE getting a Cadbury Egg?!? Actually, I think it must have been my aunt Ruth.

I’ll tell ya, the only Easter treats in my book worth anything are those little marshmallow Peeps. Although the other day I absent-mindedly grabbed one out of a candy dish at a friend’s house, popped it in my pie hole, and found that it was crunchy. I did a quick detour into his bathroom and spit it into the sink. He’s got one of those modern, raised wash basins that sits on top of the counter, and the inside surface is made of off-white, rough, natural stone instead of polished porcelain like most sinks. Anyway, as I went to wash the half-chewed pink Peep down the sink I noticed that the pinkness wasn’t going away. It seems that whatever artificial color the Peep people use stains this type of stone. I pumped some hand soap out and tried washing the pinkness away with that, but it didn’t work. I looked under the sink and found some Ajax which I sprinkled onto the pink stain and let set for a couple of minutes. I used what I hope was a retired toothbrush I found under the sink to work the Ajax into the stain. Then, as I rinsed away the cleanser, I noticed that the pink stain was gone, but so was the natural stone color! The Ajax had managed to bleach the off-white stone to bright white, and I was left staring at a 4” oval of white which stood out even more than the pink did just a few minutes prior. I put the Ajax under the sink, quietly exited the bathroom, and made my way toward the living room. Oh, on the way, of course, I absent mindedly scooped up another stale Peep and threw it in my mouth. I managed to keep this one in my mouth though. It was the least I could do.

Friday, March 16, 2007

‘The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows. '~Gaston Bachelard.

I woke up last night at 2:20 and started thinking about stuff. Waking up in the middle of the night and fixating on one thing is bad, but thinking about stuff is much, much worse. In the case of last night, all the stuff revolved around religion and politics – two subjects that I usually avoid. Apparently, as the quote above suggests, I needed to ‘sweep out the shadows.’

I know from experience that if I want to suppress the brain chatter and get back to sleep I have two choices; and both are equally effective: I can try to employ an Asian meditation technique I learned which involves imagining warm liquid gelatin being pumped into my head and oozing in, filling all the gaps between my skull and my brain, then slowly setting as my mind loses all connection to the outside world and my consciousness fades to black; or I can pop in any DVD starring Steve Guttenberg. Last night, however, I decided to strap myself in, and run with the chatter. Here’s some of last night’s stuff:

- I’ve been a-political all my life, but have recently really gotten into the John Edward’s campaign. I wonder if I should volunteer my services as a writer to him. I mean, he’s one of my Twitter friends, that makes us almost like real buddies – right?

- Dude – Where’s My God? Where did this thought come from?!? Is it really as profound as I think it is, or am I in that limbo of partial-consciousness where every idea sounds great? If one of the beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus died for our sins, and that God loves the world and sacrificed his only son to show how much He loves the world, then what does that say about the kind of God that God really is? I mean does this mean that God found no other way to forgive our sins than to have his own son tortured and killed in a horrible way? This God sounds more like one of the Inca Gods who were all about sacrifice, than our notion of an all-loving God.

- I’ll bet that one of the reasons that the president allocates so much money toward ‘keeping peace in the Middle East’ instead of toward finding a cure for cancer is that if the war in Iraq and his campaign against terrorism is looked at as a success – even in the distant future - President Bush will be remembered as a great hero. But, if he concedes and signs a bill allocating ten billion dollars to cancer research which results in a cure, the doctor and his team who announce the cure will be written into the history books as the hero, not the president.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Psycho House

As we talked about in Episode 40, in 1991 I was invited by my friend, Win to Universal Studios where I sat in on the last day of filming of the movie Noises Off. During my visit to the studio, after my embarrassing encounter with Christopher Reeve, Win and I decided to take a self-guided tour of the back lot. Now, if you’ve ever been on the Universal Studios Tour, you’re familiar with the standard areas they drive through – the western town, the pueblo with the flash flood, the NYC cityscape, the Psycho house, etc. I told Win that I wanted to see all those places, but also get the opportunity to get out and stretch my legs a little as well. So win grabs two bottles of champagne from the craft services area which were destined to be popped as the director, Peter Bogdanovich shouted the last, “Cut, Print!” and off we went in a ‘borrowed’ golf cart.

It was dusk when we made our way to the NYC cityscape, parked the cart, and walked with our bottles of champagne toward ‘Sting Alley.’ We sat in that alley under a fire escape and popped both bottles. There was no one around, no sign of security cameras, no guards riding by on their little carts. We drank about half of each bottle, then headed back to the cart. From there, we drove to the Psycho house.

Again, we parked, grabbed our bottles and went inside. It was completely dark as we stumbled up the dirt bluff to the house. The inside of the Psycho house consists of uneven dirt floor and wood framing. There are no rooms to speak of, only a couple partial walls, but there was a small room built out of a dormer at the top of a 16 or 20 foot ladder. There was a light on in that room and Win told me that he heard from another crew member that they kept a replica of Anthony Perkins’ decaying mother from the movie up there – sitting in her rocking chair, and all. Win and I sat on the dirt floor, tipped the champagne bottles, and tried to decide if one of us should ascend the ladder to see if that rumor was correct. I’m embarrassed to admit that even a full bottle of champagne wasn’t enough to build sufficient courage for either of us to do that. On the way out though, we walked to the side of the house where that dormer was, and could make out the figure of someone sitting in a chair on the other side of a very dirty window. That was confirmation enough for both of us.

All in all, we spent about an hour or so driving around the back lot. I’ll probably never be able to take the normal tour again after that adventure. Win will be a special guest on The Unreal OC Episode # 42, so tune in and we’ll talk more about our adventures in the back lot as well as tell you about the ‘wrap party’ for Noises Off we went to and Peter Bogdanovich’s wife’s birthday party as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Unreal OC - Episode 41 - No Sympathy

Wanna here what Ema and her sister, Linda say about me when I'm not around? Check out this week's episode!

The lovely ladies take over the show for this episode as Tom’s throat continues to heal. Ema and her sister Linda take this opportunity to talk about Tom behind his back. Special guest star: Robin, Linda’s daughter.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Right Nostril

Yesterday, at approximately 3:11 PM, I sat in my ENT’s office and took in a full breath of air through my right nostril for the first time in 20 years. You see, I lived with a broken nose since that fateful night back in 1987 when my friend, Jonny and I got pummeled by a drunken gargantuan outside of a local tavern. Jonny and I were walking home from 2nd Street in Belmont Shore – Long Beach, for those unfamiliar with this territory – when we noticed a huge, inebriated man screaming at a girl outside of a bar. Jonny, fueled by several quarts of liquid courage, decided to walk over to the gargantuan and inquire as to what may be the problem. He got within striking distance and was backhanded – slapped to the ground in a heap. As I rushed toward him to give him a hand the gargantuan turned toward me, grabbed me square by my shoulders and head-butted me across the middle of my face with his forehead making intimate, catastrophic contact with the bridge of my nose. I was knocked to the ground. I scrambled to my feet in an attempt to bolt out of there, but as I rose I was greeted by his fist which planted itself, again, on my nose. I was nearly knocked unconscious, but managed to dig into the sidewalk and lunge away from the scene, building momentum into what must have been the fastest ½ mile sprint I’d ever run.

A few minutes later Jonny met up with me on the steps of my parents’ house. Primed by the sprint, blood gushed from my nose like an inverted oil well. Jonny was basically unscathed. With the exception of a small red patch on his forehead from where the gargantuan’s massive hand made contact, he was fine.

The next day when I woke up and looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize who I saw. My nose had been smashed into a ball and bent in half. I went to an ENT, who with the help of his nurse who braced my head from behind, managed to bend my nose back into place – more or less. They told me that I’d probably not be able to breath out of my right nostril until I had surgery to correct the septum. They were right.

So, for twenty years, I’ve been a left-nostril breather. Not many people know that about me. I sometimes wonder how my life would be different had I been able to breath out of my right nostril for all these years. I think about all the successful people who are lucky enough to use their nose to its full potential. Perhaps I could have been a great athlete – the extra oxygen provided by that pathway enabling extraordinary feats of strength, skill, and endurance. Or maybe that small amount of extra oxygen would have allowed my brain to develop more better. . .I mean betterer. . .I mean better! See – Who knows?!? But I’m not going to worry about that now. Fact is, I’m a full-nose breather once again, and I plan on being one for the rest of my days. And Jonny – just to let you know – the next time you want to defend someone outside of a bar, dude, you’re on your own!